Throughout the history of cinema, disaster films have been made to serve as sort of a window to a version of our world that's being unraveled by a cataclysmic event, and it shows how humanity should bond together in apocalyptic times.
That's the surface level M.O. Mostly, people flock to the theaters to see disaster films for the spectacle of it; to witness the awesome destruction of the world that many of us (hopefully) won’t see in our lifetimes. To get ready for the upcoming Moonfall on February 4th — a film about the Moon being sentient and wanting to kill us all — there's a laundry list of disaster films that wreaked all kinds of damage on planet earth that can be streamed, today.
'Contagion' — Streaming on Amazon Prime
When the COVID-19 pandemic descended upon us in early 2020, many pointed to this 2011 movie as an example of what could happen during a massive virus outbreak. Contagion told a grounded story of just that, and how governments around the world reacted to it.
The central meaning of the film was that fear of the virus spread faster than the virus itself. While the film is a slow burn at times, it’s a gripping, realistic watch into how humanity reacts to a contagious and deadly disease
'Dante’s Peak' — Streaming on Amazon Prime
1997 blessed us with not one, but two movies about killer volcanoes. Dante’s Peak, which starred Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton, was the better of the two (though Volcano wasn't all that bad). Providing more action, the film centers around a town called Dante’s Peak, which quickly becomes the epicenter of a volcanic eruption.
Brosnan plays that typical ‘90s action hero, with Hamilton as his capable backup. It may seem dated at times, but Dante’s Peak is still a fun movie to turn off your brain to and watch the destruction of an idyllic Northwestern town.
'2012' — Streaming on Peacock
Remember when everyone predicted that 2012 would be the end of the world? Well, two years before that uneventful deadline, 20th Century Fox decided to make a disaster film to end all disaster films. 2012 follows humanity as it stands on the brink of chaos and destruction that the Mayans predicted eons ago.
The pace of the film was fluid and fast, and the destruction scenes — one the most memorable being a sequence of Los Angeles falling into the Pacific Ocean — were quite spectacular. Even though all those conspiracy groups got it wrong, it’s still fun to re-watch 2012 to see all of that beautiful Hollywood destruction.
'The Day After Tomorrow' — Streaming on Hulu
This 2004 disaster flick was Hollywood’s take on what happens when the climate crisis finally reaches full tilt. Starring Dennis Quaid, The Day After Tomorrow follows a team of scientists who race to alarm the world that climate change is real and that it will bring the Earth to a new ice age.
Even to this very day, it was cool to see New York City frozen over, and cathartic to see that the very politicians who questioned if climate change was real, were directly impacted by it. Don't let it be said that this film was apolitical. Regardless, seeing Mother Earth inflict all sorts of damage on the world was a fantastic spectacle, even if some of the disaster scenes were a little lackluster.
'The Day After' — Streaming On YouTube
In 1983, the United States and the former Soviet Union were close to letting the nukes fly, ending life on Earth as we know it. The Day After, a special television movie shown on ABC, shocked the American audience by displaying what the country would look like after a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
The movie was dank, dark, and bleak, with many people fighting to survive, and teaching war hawks that there are no victors in a nuclear war. The film was so powerful that it convinced then-President Ronald Regan to change his tune on nuclear weapons, and aim for a more diplomatic relationship with the U.S.S.R.
'Independence Day' — Streaming on Hulu
By the mid-90s, sci-fi films weren’t made with the same zeal of days past. Independence Day changed that, and then some. This 1996 epic starring Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum finds the Earth fighting back against an alien invasion.
It not only revitalized the sci-fi genre, but Independence Day also changed the movie landscape, with the summer blockbuster becoming all the rage. It helped that the destruction scenes are some of the best to come out of Hollywood.
'San Andreas' — Streaming on Hulu
If you’re a Californian you’ve no doubt heard all too well of “The Big Well.” San Andreas, which stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, finds the San Andreas fault line finally creating the dreaded “Big One,” a supermassive earthquake that wreaks all sorts of destruction from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
Never mind that the movie turned a blind eye to the actual science behind earthquakes, and having several "how of Earth did they survive that?!" moments, people flock to San Andreas for its nonstop action and its technically impressive and widespread destruction.
NEXT: 10 Classic Disney Channel Shows, Ranked
Jump backwards through time with Dr. Sam Beckett and Admiral Al Calavicci - or some form of them - once again!